Skip navigation

Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland


NIS America has quite the following and for good reason. A majority of the titles they release are steeped in the anime world and come lovingly cared for from Japan. Their titles are about as close as you can get to importing, though quite frankly they do a bang-up job on the localization. Because of that most of their titles are a treat for anime lovers such as myself and their latest release, Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland is poised to make headway.

The Atelier series is relatively unknown here in the States, and though many titles have come out, it's nowhere near as popular as it is in Japan. Since the franchise launched in 1997 for the original PlayStation 17 games have been released across different platforms. Impressive numbers by anyone's standards, but out of those titles only 7 have made it to our shores. Rorona marks the series' first step onto the PlayStation 3 and the first time the game has ventured into 3D territory.

Story

Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland follows the adventures of a girl named Rorona, who is an apprentice alchemist. She resides in Arland under the tutelage of a master named Astrid, who seems more intent on sleeping, avoiding work, and making awkward advances towards Rorona than actually running her business. Years ago when Astrid came to Arland she was something special. She helped the people learn how to utilize ancient technology and turned a slumbering economy into a prosperous one. The king rewarded Astrid with an alchemy shop of her own, but lately the store hasn't had a single customer.

atelier rorona standing in the town

It would seem that Astrid's carefree approach and laziness have become detrimental to her business. Making matters worse in the beginning of The Alchemist of Arland is the fact that the king has ordered the shop be shut down. Astrid doesn't go down with the ship, however, and instead she turns the reigns over to her apprentice. It's now up to Rorona to do her best and work towards meeting the expectations of the king in order to save her shop.

Joining Rorona is a cast of fun characters who actually border on the truly bizarre. Rorona steals the show, however, and it's through her perky bubble-headed reaction to the world that the game develops some real personality. Then again perverse humor, fan-service designs, and a moe charm to everything doesn't hurt matters either. This is a game designed solely for anime fans and anyone who picks up NIS America releases probably already lumps themselves in that category. Therefore it's safe to say that if you're reading this review you probably already have your sights set on Rorona. Lord knows everyone else in the game does.

Gameplay

The structure of the gameplay in Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland should be familiar to anyone who played prior iterations in the franchise. For instance the game adopts the three year study plan utilized in Mana Khemia. Basically what that means is everything and anything in the game is set to a time limit. Doing something charges you a day, a week, or a month and these things really add up when you've got a deadline looming just around the corner. Few games use a mechanic such as this and it definitely gives the gameplay here a unique edge. It's not something everyone will appreciate, but there's something to be said for the style and pace it adds to the game.

atelier rorona running on the cobblestone path

Now, as far as the actual gameplay is concerned that's where things get a little further into the grey area.

Atelier Rorona has a few different components that work together here. On one hand you have the ability to roam around town and take on jobs for people. This will build Rorona's reputation and give you the opportunity to expand her character interactions. Visiting other parts of Arland takes time, but for the most part it's time well spent.

Whether you're taking on missions or doing favors for people, there's also the alchemy aspect to attend to. There are literally tons of alchemy recipes to play with here and they unlock gradually through the game. Starting out with basic items, building Rorona's crafting experience, and getting to the point where you can produce some good stuff is very rewarding. Each item you create also takes time to pull off and in the case of crafting it also takes some of Rorona's HP. Keep that in mind for the next part.

Combat and adventuring is another key slice to the Atelier Rorona pie. Getting out of town with Rorona's friends is where the majority of the RPG experience comes in. Enemies appear, there are bosses to fight, and throughout it all the experience system works like one would expect it to. Donít get caught with your pants down when you craft a bunch of items and step out to find ingredients, however. The loss of HP from alchemy means you have to rest up before killing and exploring, which also takes time off the clock.

On their own neither element is really captivating. The alchemy can be rewarding, but not until much later in the game and getting to that point means a lot of grinding and repetition. The RPG aspect is realized in the lightest of senses and the combat is neither rich nor rewarding. Exploring town is also about as exciting as one might think.

atelier rorona dying on the ground

Ultimately Atelier Rorona is a game with potential and some great ideas, but I'm not necessarily sure that it executes all of them effectively. Players can expect to spend a great deal of their time in menus, slogging through lists of items and recipes, and clicking through conversations. This is the kind of niche game that has enough things that make it unique and worth latching on to, but only if you're looking for something off the beaten path. Atelier fans will want to pick it up, but the uninitiated may want to give it a rental first.

Trophies

Bronze, Silver, and Gold Trophies are awarded to players who complete certain tasks in the game. Catching certain events, seeing particular endings (there are several to the game), leveling up skills, and completing commissions are all ways to receive Trophies. Basically in order to get all Trophies you have to play through the game a whole bunch of times. I'm not necessarily sure that it's worth it, but someone with hundreds of hours on their hands may fun with that.

Graphics

Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland doesn't exactly push the limits of the PlayStation 3. Character models are cel-shaded vaguely reminiscent of the style used in Eternal Sonata, though not quite as pretty. There's still a great amount of design at work with each character and enemy. It just doesn't go toe to toe with other current generation titles. Backgrounds are also hit or miss depending. The menus are clean and the 2D aspects and artwork are downright gorgeous. Thankfully the game leverages its better parts even though the not-so-great material is still there in spades.

Audio

All I'm going to say is thank God NIS America gave us the option for English or Japanese dialogue. Granted that's fairly standard from the publisher, but I couldn't stand listening to the English cast for very long. The dialogue is either wooden or over-acted in the dub. For my money the Japanese version is the way to go. The game's music and sound effects are solid all around, however, and this is a bubbly, happy sounding RPG.

Conclusion

Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland is a charming game with some fun elements that come together nicely. It's just a shame that it takes a while to get going and the single parts are never quite as good as the whole. Crafting items, fighting monsters, and doing missions are well and good, but the thing that stands out the most here is the time management aspect. The game really forces you to strategize while you play. It's not a system for everyone and it definitely doesn't make for a relaxing experience. Atelier initiates and NIS fanatics will want to buy this title if they haven't already, but newcomers will want to keep in mind that the mechanics are fairly exclusive and ultimate this is a good game; not a great one.



Discuss This Game on Our Official VGT Forum